Election debate bubble

Effect of first election debate on social networking and search

TV is arguably the most social form of media; people love to watch, discuss and enjoy TV together. This shared viewing aspect to TV is one of its greatest assets as an advertising medium. With laptops, WIFI and mobiles providing a ‘virtual sofa’ for viewers, people can pursue their inherent need for interaction onto social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, or to seek and find out more, via search.

Britain’s first televised debate between the leaders of our largest parties, not only attracted 15 million viewers (which is 36% up on the ITV slot average), but it also revealed our increasing appetite to engage with big events on the television with an online ‘back-channel’.

Below are some interesting facts and figures for you from the night.

A sentimental thing

Rate the Debate, an application designed to indicate the sentiments of tens of thousands of Facebook members to the three leaders, in real time, crashed under the weight of the number of people trying to take part.

Rate the Debate

Facebook in a statement said: “With over 43,000 fans currently following Democracy UK, tonight’s Rate the Debate application experienced a groundswell of users. This volume of participation is a testament to the popularity and appetite for the application and we’ll ensure it is ready for the impact of next week’s debate.”

Meanwhile, the smaller Twitter aggregator, TweetMinster and the live online polling by ITV.com  and Channel 4 News stood up better to the thousands of people accessing their services.

Tweetminster reported that the first leaders’ debate was the most tweeted event ever around UK politics, with more than triple the activity around Nick Griffin’s appearance at Question Time. Here are their top-line figures:

  • Total tweets: 184,396
  • Average frequency 29.06 tweets per second
  • Total tweeters: 36,483
  • Peak: 41.05 tweets/second

Sentiment scores:

  • Clegg: 3.631,
  • Cameron: 3.033,
  • Brown: 3.006

You can read more about how their sentiment analysis works here

Whilst Twitterers tweeted in response to the broadcast, ITV.com were busy capturing comments as part of its online streaming. They were also deploying the worm.

Meet the worm

ITV News embarked on a unique experiment to get reaction to the debate as it happened, from the voters who are now Britain’s most wanted. They assembled 20 undecided voters from the key marginals of Bolton NE and Bolton W who watched the debate and participated in a worm poll as they watched.

They each had a handset on which they registered approval/disapproval or neutral feelings constantly throughout the debate. The output of each handset created a live "worm" graph throughout the debate, showing a total positive or negative rating for the audience appreciation.

That signal then created a composite image of the worm superimposed over the live debate. Both signals were sync-ed up to make sure the worm reaction delivers live feedback from our audience.

The worm poll gives qualitative feedback, measuring how the voting panel feels at a particular moment in time about what is being said. It does not and cannot give quantitative feedback, and there does not deliver a score for each politician.

You can see examples of this in action on the ITV.com website.

Ben McOwen Wilson, director of online and interactive at ITV, said: "We are really excited to be the only site able to offer, not only a live stream of the debate, but the opportunity for our users to share their views and opinions both on ITV.com and across social networks such as Twitter and Facebook.

ITV.com had its biggest ever live chat with more than 200,000 users. Nearly 45,000 users watched the live streamed video of the debate on ITV.com, with more than 600,000 page views generated.

Following the live stream, the debate was available in full on both the ITV Player and the ITV1 You Tube channel, in the UK and internationally.

ITV News at Ten also did something that hadn't been done before - getting instant reaction to a live news event via a live poll of 4,000.

In search of a leader

Google reported the following searches around the debate:

  • Nick Clegg, his Liberal Democrat Party, and its manifesto generated many queries as people searched for Lib Dems and Liberal Democrat manifesto 2010.
  • Searches for David Cameron and the Conservatives exceeded the well-known incumbent Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Labour, but the two parties’ manifestos each generated about the same number of searches.
  • Many Brits sought to watch the debate, searching for ITV election debate and live political debate, while others sought real-time polling information with queries such as debate polls, leaders debate poll and who is winning the debate.

Google also monitored search term activity over the 90 minutes of debate, with “Quango”, “jobs tax” and “Trident” driving notable spikes in activity.

The debate was run according to a very tight pre-agreed protocol, and this mean that no ads breaks were scheduled within the debate.  But all credit to the Daily Mail, which bought the very last ad before the debate and the first coming out of it; a very smart bit of well-targeted advertising.

Effect of first election debate on social networking and search

15 million people watched all or part of the first ever live televised election debate between our three largest political parties, delivering an average live audience of 9.4m. This was not only something quite new in the evolution of our democracy, but also a gripping bit of telly that got us tens of thousands Twittering, Facebooking and Googling – plus millions chewing it over in livings rooms and pubs across the nation. A programme like this reminds us that TV is the most social medium of all. In all the hype about social media’s important role in the Obama campaign, it’s often overlooked that it was the live TV debates and a huge TV advertising campaign that mobilized support for Obama in the first place, which the web then captured and amplified so profitably. The money that Obama raised online was then ploughed back into buying more TV advertising. Here you can read about ITV’s innovative cross platform approach to the debate, get the key social network figures and also find out how various types of analysis were used to monitor the performance of the contenders in real time. It’s a story of sentiment analysis, a worm and a place called Tweetminster.